UTG INTERVIEW: Head North Discuss New Music, Plans To Dominate 2015

head north

Here at UTG, we believe in Head North. The Buffalo, NY pop-punk quartet wrapped up a year of seemingly soaring under the radar in 2014 with a few huge announcements for 2015, including the news that the band would be signing with Bad Timing Records for the release of a new EP in the spring and supporting the release with a slot on Front Porch Step’s first headlining tour with Have Mercy…although it now seems that Head North will be hitting the road with headliner Have Mercy after both groups decided to drop off the tour following allegations against Front Porch Step’s Jake McElfresh that surfaced online last week.

While things are looking great for Head North in their transition to a huge national act, it’s clear that the four guys in the band are still very much aware of their surroundings and have kept their collective head close to their hometown in Buffalo. After talking with the guys at Glamour Kills Holiday Fest at Webster Hall in New York, it became apparent to me that the band is very excited to keep making music, to have fun, and live out their dream of touring the world.

Since our interview, Head North has announced that they will be playing the 2015 edition of Skate and Surf Festival in Asbury Park, NJ with the likes of Manchester Orchestra, The Wonder Years, The Story So Far, and Modern Baseball. As one of our Artists To Watch in 2015, we’ll keep you up to date with all things Head North that pop up this year.

First things first, who’s your favorite rapper?

Brent Martone, lead vocals and guitar: Oh man, my favorite rapper of all time would have to be Biggie Smalls. My favorite rapper currently is A$AP Rocky. My favorite hip-hop group is Migos. Wait they’re not hip-hop, I lied. Trap. My favorite trap group is Migos.

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for your band in terms of announcements, like new music and a tour lined up for the Spring. How have you been reacting to the sudden attention?

Brent: It’s been crazy because we’re used to no one giving a shit when we’re playing basements. Last tour, we played basements all over the fine USA and now we’re gonna be opening up for some cool bands we’ve always looked up to and we’re gonna be putting out a record on a label that we’ve always admired – and we’re gonna be on the same label as some Mansions re-releases, so it’s gonna be fucking sick!

That’s my favorite part of Bad Timing’s roster; they’ve got Mansions.

Brent: Oh, they got so much good shit but Mansions is tops.

Ryan Harris, guitar: And the fact that we’re right next to Kevin Devine on the roster page is pretty cool.

You’re one of the Buffalo area’s premier DIY bands. When you announced your signing, a lot of the online feedback that I saw talked about how you’ve done a lot for that scene. What does DIY mean to you and how do you feel that you’ve associated with that in your time as a band?

Brent: DIY is an interesting thing.

Ben Lieber, drums: We take it as putting matters into our own hands and working as hard as we can for ourselves, not really expecting anything from it, you know?

Ryan: I think it means a lot of things to a lot of people. You at least need a DIY work ethic. Even if you have other people helping you do other things, you need to keep pushing yourself.

Brent: The only difference is no one believes in you until you’re in a band that breaks down a million times a year.

You guys had some issues with breaking down earlier this year, right?

Brent: Oh yeah, it was awful. We were stranded in Iowa for like 4 or 5 days.

Ben: We had more problems than not problems.

Alex Matos, bass and vocals: The van’s a piece of shit, don’t ya know.

Ryan: We had a lot of Papa John’s.

Brent: The van fucked up a bunch of times and it’s still fucking up. We need to get a new one. We’re convinced that our wheel is gonna fall off on the drive home so if we’re dead tomorrow and this is the last interview we give, make sure to market it like that.

Oh trust me, I’ll clickbait the shit out of that headline.

Brent: It could say “Head North: Dead?! Read More After The Jump!” [laughs]

Ryan: Tell my dog I love him.

Alex: If we die, tell my little sister to stay away from all my stuff.

The band has had a busy year, and there are a lot of people talking about 2015 being your breakout year, even more so than 2014. Why choose to sign with a label right now?

Brent: What happened was, after we dropped our split with A Will Away and we put out our “In The Water” music video, shit just started clicking. We’ve had a vision for what we want the band to be for a while now, and when Thomas Nassiff, Zack Zarrillo [co-owners of Bad Timing Records] and Jason Parent [The APA Agency] reach out and put stuff together for you, you know, it lined up and it felt right. Bad Timing was the goal, too; it’s the perfect kind of label for us.

Ryan: They approached us and it seemed like they really wanted to push us and get the best out of the band. When that’s the vibe coming from the people who want to work with you, that’s the kind of person you want to work with.

I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but they’re a good, young label. You’re gonna be at the front of their attention, which is exactly what you would want.

Brent: Yeah, among other reasons. We’re one of their only original content bands. It’s just cool to have someone give a shit.

With “In The Water,” you show a more creative influence and build on the sound you had with Scrapbook Minds. What kind of outside influences came into play when you started writing your newer output that weren’t there before?

Brent: I mean, touring is how we’ve done this year so that’s a little part of it obviously, but we just always try to listen to new music and push ourselves to do different things. We’re also working with Jay Zubricky for the third time, and we’re very comfortable working with him, and it allows us to open up our soundscape and get the ideas in our head out. We listen to good music, lot of Migos, bump that shit on 10, and then write a rock record.

We know that you’ve got a tour and a new EP that we can expect next spring. Anything else for fans to look forward to in the coming months?

Ben: We got some cool shows we’re hopping on in the next year and maybe another tour too, we don’t know yet.

Brent: We love being on the road and we’re gonna be on the road as much as possible.

You’re in the studio now recording your EP and if I’m not mistaken, you’re wrapping up the tracking stage right now.

Brent: Yeah, we were in yesterday and we’re in tomorrow – eight hour drive each way.

How’s the process been different than other times you’ve been in the studio? Has anything new come to the table with Jay now that you know each other a little bit better?

Ben: We just got back from a full US tour, and before we left for that we had a month or six weeks of downtime, so we wrote pretty much every day and demoed all the songs out eight or nine times. We really just kept telling ourselves that it wasn’t good enough and did it over and over and over again, and I think the new songs really benefited from that. We also really told ourselves not to say “no” to any ideas when we’ve been recording, like if we want a weird guitar pedal or some weird harmony; we’ve been able to experiment a lot.

Brent: We got a lot of steel drums on this record.

Alex: Yep, almost exclusively steel drums.

Now that you’re signed and soon to be out on a great tour, what are your goals as a band? What else do you have to look forward to in your aspiring career? What do you have to look forward to as a band?

Brent: Well after the cocaine addiction… Nah, we just want to keep climbing and getting to the next step. Stay active, even at this show, we’re the bottom of the food chain here and we gotta keep playing and climbing our way up.

Ryan: We want to stay hungry with it.

Brent: Stay DIY till ya die, man!

Next step, you just gotta dismantle the music industry and make it yours.

Brent: Dude, that is so true. I HATE The Man. The Man can fuck off.

So is it true that your next album is going to be an aggressive crust-punk manifesto?

Brent: I wouldn’t say “manifesto” but definitely crust punk, yeah.

Many bands in the Buffalo scene looked up to you and plugged you whenever they could – you could say that scene is part of the reason that you’re gaining national attention today. What are some bands that you think deserve the spotlight? Who should everyone check out that they might not have heard of?

Ben: Shoutout to the Mayflower Collective. Those dudes have helped us out so much and they’re the best friends ever. Stanley and the Search, too.

Alex: Everyone in Buffalo. Cedar Kites, Traditional. Well Kept Things. I could keep going with every local I know.

Ryan: Watermedown.

Brent: A Will Away. There’s a million. I could write you a list. I could write you a whole novel.

I remember seeing Cedar Kites last year. I guess one of his shows on tour fell through and my friend at school set up this quick acoustic show outside of our dining hall. He played the best Pedro the Lion cover I’ve ever heard.

Brent: He does a Bad Books cover too; it’s great dude. And their original music is amazing.

Just to wrap things up, what were your favorite albums of 2014? What music really resonated with you?

Ben: Favorite album of the year for me was…The Hotelier.

Ryan: My favorite album of the year right now, came out recently actually, was White Noise by PVRIS. It’s their first full-length, and it’s really, really, cool.

Alex: That last Every Time I Die record was sick, From Parts Unknown. I have to go with that.

Brent: Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey. Or Oh, Common Life by Fireworks. Best albums, hands down.


*Feature photo courtesy of Taylor Rambo Photography

John Bazley

John Bazley was raised in central New Jersey by the romantic aura of the Asbury Park beachfront, punk rock, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. He is still trying to figure all of this stuff out.

In addition to UTG, John has contributed to Alternative Press and Full Frequency Media. Follow him on Twitter for pictures of his dog.
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